April 10, 2019

Volunteer Appreciation Week – University Partnerships

In the early hours of the morning, the MANNA kitchen already has a full production underway. Boxes are being opened and meals are placed on the packing stations ready for the packers to begin their tasks. During the “early bird shift,” which takes place from 7-10am, you will typically find a group of retirees carefully but joyfully packing each bag with eagerness and pride. The morning shift allows for our retired volunteers to stick to the routines of waking up early for work like they have done for a majority of their adult lives but with flexibility. Joining them throughout the year are first year college students from Drexel University.

Over the years, MANNA’s had a partnership with Drexel University through their course titled “Civic Engagement 101.” Assistant Director of Community Based Learning Cara Scharf states that the overall purpose of the course is to “explore responsibility and ensure that Drexel is an active member, partner, and asset to Philadelphia’s many communities.” Through their participation in the course, students are able to volunteer at MANNA and learn hands-on the meaning of Food as Medicine. Their tasks and responsibilities vary from assisting our distribution staff in packing breakfast, lunch, and entrée bags, helping our porters and drivers load up our trucks for the day’s deliveries, or assisting our chefs in preparing food to be cooked later in the morning.

Drexel’s Associate Director of Student and Employee Civic Engagement Katie Regetta shared her thoughts on the community partnership program. Regetta says “MANNA has been a phenomenal partner for the Drexel University’s Lindy Center for Civic Engagement working with our first year CIVC 101 course, our long-term Drexel Community Scholars, and our employee program! The staff are incredible, the work is meaningful, and our students and staff always leave inspired. Thank you for a fantastic partnership!”

The students may enter the morning feeling tired from hours of school work, but by the end of their shift, they are refreshed knowing they truly helped a neighbor that they may never have the opportunity to meet face to face. The Drexel staff believes “in instilling that sense of responsibility in students, faculty, and staff, which is why it is so important to have community partners such as MANNA—who provide volunteer and experiential learning opportunities.”

For many students a city only becomes their home temporarily while they are attending a university. But for some, positive experiences compel them to make that city their home after graduation. We at MANNA take pride in giving students the experience of giving back to their newfound community. A student participating in the program mentioned to her advisor that while volunteering, “I encountered all positive things at MANNA. The people running the kitchen and other volunteers were extremely friendly. Additionally, the organization demonstrated how dedicated they are to making sure that the citizens of Philly who do not have access to a nutritious meal are properly fed. I will continue working with MANNA as I felt I was bettering the community when I volunteered.”

From the staff here at MANNA, we send a special thank you to the students of Drexel University’s Civic engagement for their years of dedication and commitment. We hope that MANNA has allowed for each student to feel connected to the city of Philadelphia and allow for it to feel like home.